Porn, feminism and laughs in Aurora’s Rapture

Sep 05

Porn, feminism and laughs in Aurora’s <i>Rapture</i>

There's an observation about Internet porn in Gina Gionfriddo's Rapture, Blister, Burn now at Berkeley's Aurora Theatre Company that is at once hilarious and trenchant. A college woman encapsulates the ease of access to porn this way: "Once you get directions from Google Maps, it seems such a hassle to unfold an actual map."

Generational differences and technology come into play a lot in Rapture, a crackling season opener for the Aurora. Gionfriddo is a smart, feisty writer who knows her way around a joke that always contains more than a laugh. She tackles the gargantuan issue of feminism and its evolution into the 21st century and comes through with a stage full of surprising, complicated characters having passionate, always intriguing discussions.

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Say amen – SF Playhouse takes it to Church

Dec 06

Say amen – SF Playhouse takes it to <i>Church</i>

In many ways, John Patrick Shanley's Storefront Church, now at San Francisco Playhouse for a well-timed holiday run, is less about the battle between the material world and the spiritual world and more about finding the most personal of solutions to the stress and pull and darkness of life: being still.

In such a hectic world, stillness seems practically revolutionary, but that's where the Rev. Chester Kimmich (Carl Lumbly) finds himself: in stillness waiting for an answer or a way to cross the giant black hole that has opened up before him.

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Joseph’s Bengal Tiger prowls the SF Playhouse stage

Oct 06

Joseph’s <i>Bengal Tiger</i> prowls the SF Playhouse stage

The last time San Francisco Playhouse produced a play by Rajiv Joseph -- Animals Out of Paper in 2009 -- the young playwright was becoming one of the hottest writers in the country. TheatreWorks produced his The North Pool in 2011, just as his Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo was preparing to bow on Broadway in a starry production that featured Robin Williams as the titular caged beast.

Joseph, with his Tony Award and Pulitzer nominations, has fully emerged as an American playwright of note and his work is back at San Francisco Playhouse to launch a new season, the second in the stellar theater on Post Street.

In Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, Joseph has crafted a challenging war/ghost story that wrestles with the very notion of god (or, if you prefer, God).

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Life, death and a ’70s groove in Magic’s Happy Ones

Apr 04

Life, death and a ’70s groove in Magic’s <i>Happy Ones</i>

At first the music is loud and fun. Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit in the Sky" seems like the perfect audio accompaniment to a grown-up birthday party scene set in a Garden Grove, Califorina, suburban home, where the swimming pool gleams and the neighbors all swing with martinis well in hand.

Then there's silence. Tragedy strikes, and the SoCal dream life has no fitting accompaniment...until it does, and that sound comes from another part of the planet – Vietnam to be exact. There's a smattering of Creedence, of Paul Simon and Randy Newman. And when the good-time music returns, in the form of Mungo Jerry's "In the Summertime," but the "living the dream" moment has passed, and it's time for new songs and new chapters.

That's the story of The Happy Ones, an achingly beautiful play by Julie Marie Myatt now at Magic Theatre.

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Yo, Mofo! SF Playhouse tips a mighty fine Hat

Feb 06

Yo, Mofo! SF Playhouse tips a mighty fine <i>Hat</i>

[warning: this review does not hide or disguise the word "motherfucker" in the title of the play at hand]

The comedy, the intensity and all that rough language keeps things skittering right along in the San Francisco Playhouse production of The Motherfucker with the Hat by Stephen Adly Guirgis. The play is this rush of plot and character and language, then the sadness and despair lands. It takes Lionel Richie and the Commodores to underscore it, but man oh man is it there.

In so many ways, Gurigis' Hat is about growing up, about taking yourself and the world you live in seriously enough to find purpose and pursue it with as much discipline as you can muster. The grown-ups in the play, let it be said, don't do such a good job on the discipline part, although most of them have (or find) some degree of purpose.

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Holy Zuzu’s petals! Get into the spirit with Wonderful Life

Dec 06

Holy Zuzu’s petals! Get into the spirit with <i>Wonderful Life</i>

At a certain point, no matter how much you love Dickens or get your heart cockles warmed by Scrooge and Tiny Tim, you've had it. Enough already with A Christmas Carol. Some years you just need to take a Carol break and find a little holiday spark elsewhere.

This year, if you're searching for an alternative to Ebenezer and his ghosts, I recommend you head to Marin Theatre Company and spend some time with George Bailey and Clarence, his Angel Second Class. It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play takes Frank Capra's much loved 1946 film and turns it into a stage experience by transforming it into a radio play. As re-conceived by Joe Landry, we're in a Manhattan radio station on a snowy Christmas Eve as five actors play all the roles and create all the sound effects for a streamlined version of Capra's story.

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